IFES Trains 250,000 Polling Officials ahead of Pakistan Poll

May 10, 2013 - IFES

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Trainer demonstrates the use of tamper evident bags during a training for presiding officers and assistant presiding officers in Peshawar, Pakistan.

The 2013 general elections on May 11 will be a critical milestone in Pakistan’s development as a democratic nation, marking the country’s first transfer of power from one elected civilian government to the next. The performance of temporary election officials and polling staff will be key to determining the quality of elections and citizens’ perception of the process.

As of May 9, IFES assisted the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to conduct 7,443 trainings and orientations for 249,551 polling officials across the country through two separate, large-scale training operations for temporary election officials and polling staff.

On March 7, IFES rolled out the first training event for district and session judges appointed as district returning officers (DROs) and returning officers (ROs). These election officials are responsible for election organization at the district and constituency levels and the consolidation of election results. IFES trained 123 master trainers who conducted trainings for 984 DROs and ROs in all four provinces.

When asked about the trainings, one participant from Karachi said, “With the forthcoming elections we are going to [make] history, and these sort of training[s] are very necessary for our capacity.” Master Trainer Rasul Wahidi added, “I feel this is a noble cause, which will enable us to assist the ECP to discharge its constitutional responsibility.”

After DRO and RO trainings were completed, IFES assisted the ECP in organizing workshops for assistant returning officers (AROs). IFES-trained ECP master trainers conducted workshops for 413 AROs in Punjab and Sindh. Security concerns in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATAs) prevented the ECP from conducting ARO sessions in the remaining provinces.

In collaboration with the ECP and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), IFES then undertook the largest training of polling staff in the nation’s history, with the goal of training all 644,244 presiding officers, assistant presiding officers and polling officers working on Election Day. In 2008, only presiding officers received training on their Election Day responsibilities, so expanding the training to all polling staff is expected to improve Election Day processes.

Currently, IFES completed trainings for polling staff across Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, FATAs and Sindh. To carry out a training program of such magnitude, IFES collaborated with local firms to train 1,468 lead and master trainers who, in turn, administered trainings and orientation sessions to the polling staff.

“Training is the essence of transformation and plays [a] vital role in improving performance,” IFES Senior Training Specialist Kulsoom Akhtar said. “I’m confident that those who have participated in the trainings can work more effectively and efficiently and will perform their duties with more confidence and professionalism leaving minimum chances for errors.”

As of May 8, IFES trained 248,603 polling staff – including 85,158 women – on their roles and responsibilities on Election Day. These sessions concluded on May 9. The UNDP also conducted trainings for polling staff in the province of Punjab.

On Election Day, presiding officers will be responsible for the set up and oversight of polling operations. Assistant presiding officers will ensure secrecy and that ballots have been properly issued to voters; polling officers will conduct a check of each voter’s computerized national identify card against the electoral role provided by the ECP.

IFES’ Supporting Electoral Reforms in Pakistan (SERP) project is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, the European Union and UK aid and the British High Commission/Foreign and Commonwealth Office through the UK Government. Contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of IFES.